12/02/2021

Opinion: Man-Made Drought: A Guide to California’s Water Wars

In the summer of 2002, shortly before I was elected to Congress, I sat through an eye-opening meeting with representatives from the Natural Resources Defense Council and several local environmental activist groups. Hoping to convince me to support various water restrictions, they argued that San Joaquin Valley farmers should stop growing alfalfa and cotton in order to save water — though they allowed that the planting of high-value crops such as almonds could continue.

Then, as our discussion turned to the groups’ overall vision for the San Joaquin Valley, they told me something astonishing:

Their goal was to remove 1.3 million acres of farmland from production. They showed me maps that laid out their whole plan: From Merced all the way down to Bakersfield, and on the entire west side of the Valley as well as part of the east side, productive agriculture would end and the land would return to some ideal state of nature. I was stunned by the vicious audacity of their goal — and I quickly learned how dedicated they were to realizing it.

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